The Politics of Travel: The Travel Memoirs of Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin and Sake Dean Mahomed

Amrita Satapathy


Representation of the East in 18th century western travel narratives was an outcome of a European aesthetic sensibility that thrived on imperial jingoism. The 18th century Indian travel writings proved that East could not be discredited as “exotic” and “orientalist” or its history be judged as a “discourse of curiosity”. The West had its share of mystery that had to be unravelled for the curious visitor from the East. Dean Mahomed’s The Travels of Dean Mahomed is a fascinating travelogue cum autobiography of an Indian immigrant as an insider and outsider in India, Ireland and England. I’tesamuddin’s The Wonders of Vilayet is a travel-memoir that addresses the politics of representation. These 18th century travelographies demystify “vilayet” in more ways than one. They analyse the West from a variety of tropes from gender, to religion and racism to otherness and identity. This paper attempts a comparative analyses of the two texts from the point of view of 18th century travel writing and representations through the idea of journey. It seeks to highlight the concept of “orientalism in reverse” and show how memoirs can be read as counterbalancing textual responses to counteract dominant western voices.

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